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Metaphysics of Non-duality, Truth and Pluralism

by Paolo Scroccaro

translated from Italian by Chuck Salvo

The oblivion of truth and violence

The modern, contemporary era seems to have renounced Truth in its traditional meaning, through a long course which unwinds across the various philosophies which have characterized the last centuries, at least since Descartes. It would be interesting to reflect on the modalities that, little by little, beginning from the theoretic-epistemological sphere, have let intellectual intuition be banished, and with it Truth, causing thereby a series of repercussions on the material and spiritual level, that in their web constitute modern western civilization, and now extending even to the Orient, ever more westernized. The areas once vivified and illuminated by the Truth, were thus occupied by invasive forces that seem to nourish their existence just by this absence of the Truth: among these the most powerful seem to be the economical forces of the market and of socialist planning, democracy, technology, science...

Very often, these forces, almost to soothe their conscience, try to justify the repudiation of Truth, rereading its history as the history of violence, of imposition, of exclusion... even if these forces, while denouncing the possible overbearing attitudes of others, in reality have themselves generated mechanisms of abuse and domination, by far among the most powerful and effective, thanks above all to the superior operational capacities of the technico-scientific Apparatus. These are themes which we have in part already dealt with, taking various authors as pretext.

Let us limit ourselves to the first aspect: is the Truth intrinsically correlated to forms of violence and abuse of power?
This thesis often show up in contemporary authors: to get an idea of it, it will suffice to consider certain texts, expressions of the current mindset, as for example The Open Society and its Enemies, by K. Popper, or The Regime of the Truth, by E. Pace.

K. Popper considers Platonic metaphysics, with its claims to truth, as a closed system, dogmatic and an enemy of pluralism... a totalitarian sociopolitical doctrine would follow from it, like that which would have been outlined in The Republic and even more so in The Laws. The criticisms, openly or in a veiled manner, pertain to all philosophies which in one form or another try to imitate Platonism.

According to a current opinion, the claims of possessing the Truth, would have two privileged expressions: metaphysics (on the model of Plato), and religion (on the model of fundamentalism). With the latter, as E. Pace handles it, criticizing Islamic and evangelical fundamentalism, since religious fundamentalism, in the name of the Truth, would try to impose an authoritarian regime by force, which would be the projection into history of such a presumed transcendent Truth.

More generally, the claims of metaphysics and of fundamentalism are accused of reductionism and of will to liberticide, since they would tend to reduce the richness, the multiplicity of the real, to a single Principle, which in different spiritual currents would take on the name of God, the Absolute, the Ground, the Good -or more simply the One, a term that sums up all the others. The expression monism is widespread, sometimes in the derogatory sense, in order to summarize the essential character of those visions of the world that would be damaged by a one-sided approach, just to reduce everything that is to a single term.

In effect, however, such an expression is to be used with reservations, for easily intuitable reasons1.
Even the indictments of Heidegger and Severino against metaphysics, even when they don't coincide with those above, are affected in various degrees by such anti-metaphysical prejudices, a fact that would merit being studied separately.
Let us now examine the principle aspects of the problem posed.

How to understand the One?

Let us immediately set down a methodological criterion of intellectual honesty, which should never be disregarded: when one judges a spiritual current, the point of reference for a close scrutiny must be sought in its most authentic manifestation, and not the more degenerate or, in any case, controversial ones which surely can never be lacking in history! We cannot penetrate the teaching of Jesus, Mohammed, Shankara while speculating on the theoretical and practical perversions due to the medieval inquisition, the ingenuous priest, the extremist fanatic, the boastful guru, and so forth... The intellectual mediocrity of too many disciples, or alleged disciples, will not be of any help to the goal of comprehending the doctrine.
In the case of the notion of One (and of many others), simplifications, repeated with suspect zeal, are not always legitimate, not always coherent, and to a great extent have been gathered together from here and there, ignoring the criterion of intellectual honesty indicated above, through bad faith or incompetence: they can not claim extenuating circumstances, since clear and authoritative sources are not lacking, and here we will limit ourselves to some examples, from time to time.

Saying that the Principle, or the Absolute, or God, or the Ground, or Brahman... is One, one affirms something that imposes itself intuitively and logically through its transparency, incontrovertability, and simplicity. Even if the various terms manifest facets of slightly different significance, they present likewise a line of continuity. How could the Principle, or the Absolute, etc. be twofold? Two absolutes would limit each other in turn, for which they could not be thus, for the contradiction doesn't allow it. From here comes a kind of preference granted to the term «One» to indicate Absolute Reality, close to other expressions that, for other serious reasons, have been utilized since time immemorial in metaphysics and religion.
In this context, the expression non-duality can also arise, to point out among other things that the Principle is necessarily free from duality, given that this would also entail limitations, which cannot be the case for the Absolute. Duality befits instead other beings, which are necessarily characterized by some limiting aspect which distinguishes them from others.

The One, that is, the non-dual infinite

Obviously the Real-Absolute, being One by definition, can have nothing outside of it, otherwise it would be limited by a further reality: therefore, one says that the One is Unconditioned, or if one prefers, Infinite. As such, it is by the nature of things, all-comprehensive. In a certain sense, only the One, that is, the Infinite, is2, nothing being able to be there in addition, and being eternally everything already included in the Infinite, that otherwise would not be so.... That does not entail the nullification of finite and numerous beings, as is sometimes believed: simply, all beings, without any possible exceptions, are real not because they are separated from, but because they participate in the Infinite, which can therefore be imagined as a Hospitable Dwelling that, being Infinite, has always welcomed all the beings without preclusion of type. If the Infinite were inhospitable and excluded any being, as such it would reside elsewhere, but then that which is considered Infinite could not be so, once again for the contradiction that disallows it. What has been said is more than sufficient to intuit that the metaphysics of the One, that is, of the Infinite, of Non-Duality3, far from having that reductionistic character for which some have abusively reproached it, either superficiality or otherwise, allows instead an integral pluralism4, just because it is the Word of that Hospitable House, which since time immemorial has been Welcoming in regard to any Beings5.

The dwellers of the infinite

Beings, human and not human, have, since time immemorial, gathered in the universal dwelling of the Infinite: it is this awareness that is demanded also of man, in order that his dwelling does not claim to become pushy in confrontations with the other Being, demanding impossible privileges in the economy of the whole. Anthropocentrism, Utilitarianism, the technico-scientific System... are some of the expressions of human arrogance, that would like to call for the impossible: that is, it would demand that the Hospitable Dwelling of the Infinite become an Inhospitable Dwelling for the use of man, and especially of certain men, those who, today, work on behalf of the System, being its functionaries.
Alternatively, we will remember that the humility of the hospitable and grateful inhabitant, finds instead a sublime exemplification in the metaphysics of the Native Americans, among whom the sentiment of «being at home» in the world is traditionally very much alive; that explains very well why they have only lightly touched the Earth, rather than trampled over it6.

The nature of the error, that is, of violence

Here is the root of the error, that is, of any error as such: inhospitality, arrogance. It shows itself when finite being claims the impossible, that is, to make itself the Absolute7, wanting to keep only and principally for itself the Dwelling of the Infinite, forgetting that, in the Infinite, any being whatever is in its own home, and not just some. Metaphysics, or if you prefer the sophia perennis, has always been committed to exposing the fundamental structure of the error, consisting in exchanging the relative with the Absolute, the finite with the Infinite, the Dweller with the Dwelling, the Part with the Whole.
Some images, developed in the spiritual schools, or perhaps given by the gods, in order to lead errant men and to educate them to Hospitality, are famous and particularly suggestive: they contributed to orient the civilizations of the past, in the Occident as in the Orient, conferring on them moderation and dignity, limiting the arrogance of the human part of the Dweller of the Infinite. It is necessary to admit that in the modern, contemporary world, such teachings are for the most part ignored, if not derided, and human arrogance has reached levels that were at one time unthinkable: the man of the techno-scientific Apparatus and of the ruling economic forces, thinks, in fact believes, he is the master of the Dwelling of the Infinite: he believes that human beings are manipulable to his liking; he believes he holds the key that opens and closes the door to the Dwelling, letting beings enter and exit it on command; he believes that all this produces something positive, on which he has imposed the reassuring names: Development, Progress, Gross National Product, Welfare, Happiness for the greatest number...8.
All the teachings that today go by the name Science, are funded, protected, disseminated, imposed in schools and universities, to the extent that they are functional to the operating plans for the will to power that seeks to control the Dwelling of the Infinite; they no longer have anything in common with the teachings of a time, usually an expression of that sophia perennis, which taught contemplation of the Infinite and its numerous Dwellers in silence; which remembered that in the great house of Being, there is a place for each Dweller; which taught bracketing human conceit9, recalling that man is only one of the Inhabitants, and that it is not permitted to try to impose a purely human perspective.

The non-human character of contemplating

Summing up: the knowledge that men value so much today are in reality interpretations, functional from a partial perspective, mostly anthropocentric which, more or less consciously, behaves as if the world exists exclusively for man himself, and (at this point) for the Apparatus for which he is its functionary. In less obscure times, it was thought that the name of Science could be the concern only to that disinterested knowing, free of egoism and utilitarianism, that, as such, was therefore extraneous to every form of anthropocentrism and attachment. Only a knowing purged of such limiting elements was worthy of the name of Science, and Contemplation was the term used in the Greco-Roman tradition to designate the purified, and therefore authentic, cognitive act because it is capable of seeing from a non-human perspective, through a supra-individual faculty, designated in the same tradition as nous or intellect (the "divine" character of nous does not indicate anything mystical or mysterious, but the quality of such a faculty that is not purely human and individual).

Modern culture, instead, in the name of an uncritical "hic homo intelligit", scoffs at nous and contemplation, of which it knows nothing (not having any experience of it), believing dogmatically that every cognitive position should necessarily be merely human and relative, making it inconceivable to transcend the sole horizon of his capacity. In this way, humanism, relativism and techno-science manipulators are absolutized; consequently, the unilateral and corrupting perspective of the world of man and of the Apparatus arrogates for itself the right of preying on all the rest, operating in the sign of violence against all other beings (and even within the human world). On the contrary, pure and supra-individual intellection10 is the attempt to look at beings and the Infinite not with a partial and aggressive outlook of a particular being, that sees the other as subjugated beforehand, but with the impartial and detached gaze of non-human wisdom, that sees each thing with strict equanimity and sub specie aeternitatis.
The closer one attains such a gaze, the more one is distanced from the domineering attitude tied to the self-serving gazes, and a pacifying dimension takes over. In contemplation from such heights, inaccessible to most men, there emerges, more or less disguised, the pettiness and violence of the criteria by which men generally value beings and events of the world: good-evil, etc.

Humanistic moralism as violence

Men consider events as good or evil, valuing the advantage of them or its lack; also the situations considered more noble often end up by betraying the presence of a petty calculation and of a restricted mentality. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche had the merit of denouncing openly the hypocritical character and distortions of various moral ideas and of the same "principle of reason", that often tries to ground the most popular moral systems.

Some examples:

One could revisit the whole history of modern thought, to bring out from it the continuity, even stronger than the eventual ideological-political differences.
Only the best current spiritual expressions of metaphysics, of the sophia perennis, are alien to such narrow views; in rather recent times, even Deep Ecology has made respectable contributions, aiming at cutting back the meddling self-promotion of men, from a radically ecocentric perspective. A possible marriage between the sophia perennis and Deep Ecology is at this point to be hoped for, capable of opening spaces of culture, of civilization, of modes of being, not susceptible to being swallowed up by the power of the technico-scientific Apparatus and by the Economic Forces that today influence and devastate the world.

The closed system and the open system

A persistent platitude, widespread in antimetaphysical environments, claims that metaphysics is essentially a fixed and closed system of thought, as such responsible for oppressive and authoritarian logic, which prohibit anything open and pluralistic. The liberal-democratic civilization would require instead an open society, because it is based on the rejection of metaphysics, and on the acceptance of critical rationalism, of science, of democracy.... Among the liberal-democrats, K. Popper is one of the greatest advocates of this thesis, whose propagation is equal to its groundlessness, since even Popper has shown he does not know the most critical terms of the problem and misrepresents even certain essential concepts (such as the notion of Good in Plato).
We have already said that metaphysics applies principally to the Infinite which, by its very nature, eludes every conceptual definition, since each definition is an attempt to delimit that which, in this case, is beyond every delimitation11.

It follows that no conceptual system can claim to be an absolute description of the Absolute (that is a closed System)12: on the contrary, even the most profound and elaborate descriptions must necessarily be considered partial descriptions, capable of indicating only some aspects of the Absolute. Consequently, any metaphysical formulation will be acceptable, provided it is accompanied by the consciousness of its intrinsic limits, for which there remains an unlimited space for other, never exhaustive, interpretations of the Infinite: all this, if one even wants to preserve the term "system", constitutes an Open System, and it is this attitude of Inexhaustible Opening that qualifies metaphysics as such. The closed system, instead, is structurally unrelated, contrary to what is rashly advocated by Popper and by others inexpert in the material13.

Symbolic language and the Infinite

Regarding language in general, one can develop the same considerations, although no linguistic terms can be truly «comprehensive» of the Infinite. Any linguistic-conceptual system is always structurally late, given the inexhaustible overflowing of the Absolute, and such a gap is never entirely fillable. With this, it is not intended to reject conceptual language: simply, one makes note of the intrinsic limits that any linguistic-conceptual operation inevitably carries with itself. Prudence in relation to language does not result in an obscure mysticism, in irrational fantasies: on the contrary, it allows one to also safeguard such language, provided one understands its limits, avoiding the absolutizations, both out of place and counterproductive, like those realized by Descartes and Hegel.
Clear and distinct ideas in the sense of Descartes (substantially corresponding to things) don't exist; mathematical language is not at all clearer and more precise than others, and above all, does not correspond better than others to the nature of the real, as the great part of modern culture claims, from its Cartesian and Galilean derivation. Hegelianism, which has well understood the defects of Cartesian rationalism, has vainly believed it has compensated for it by inventing dialectical reason, capable of a dynamic conceptualization free from the rigidity of the «abstract» concept, and able therefore to expose completely the Absolute in its totality, without folding up in the partiality of non-dialectical reason.
As one can note from these cursory notes, it is principally "rational" and "critical" modern philosophies that are dogmatic, because of their pretense to elaborate a conceptual language capable of defining the Real and of shutting it up within the confines of formulations -Cartesian, Hegelian, or otherwise.

At the opposite pole, other modern currents, rejecting such insane dogmatizations, avoid the problem refusing a priori to speak of the Absolute since even human beings would turn out to be unfathomable given the opacity of the world in which we live.
Modern contemporary culture turns out to be marked by these extremes, which are such by excess (language circumscribes the Absolute, the Real) or by defect (the Absolute, if it exists, in any case totally flees ...eventually, only faith remains!) This lack of equilibrium is another disquieting "sign of the times"; alternatively, a measured solution is present in the various expressions of the Sophia Perennis, where it is said that language, unable to circumscribe the Infinite that crosses every boundary, can however allude to it or indicate certain aspects of it, so to be of help as support for an intuition of the Infinite itself. Language so intended, instead of trying to capture, measure and confine (the Infinite, the Beings), sets itself up as support that aids the intuitive vision of what could not even be distinguished before. Such language, because of the function mentioned above, appears therefore "unveiling", in the sense that, taking off the veil, opens to view something of the Infinite; otherwise, what is the same, appears as "opening", since it opens (fosters) further possibilities of vision, which were precluded before. The ancients called this language typical of the Sophia Perennis, mythical-symbolic, to distinguish it from other linguistic forms; remaining in Western thought, Pythagoras, Plato and their disciples left us the most beautiful testimony of this symbolic practice of language: the "Numbers" of Pythagoras and the Myths of Plato are precisely Symbols that stimulate and support the lamp of intuition14,which arrives in this way to radiate over lands previously unexplored and mysterious, for the sleeping spirit.

It is modern culture that exalts, in one form or another, conceptual language, and this capturing-measuring language is stretched to dominate beings «scientifically»; the technico-scientific Apparatus has perfected this imprisoning use of language, denying any dignity to other linguistic possibilities.
The Sophia Perennis, since time immemorial, lets another language speak, that instead of confining and closing, unlocks and unveils, encouraging the opening of intellectual visions beyond the preceding limitations. Plato's «myth of the cave» exemplifies in an excellent manner the principal stages of consciousness covered in the course of its expansion (opening) toward the Infinite, stages that constitute the principal stations of a process of deconditioning and of liberation.
Today more than ever, the return of unveiling and truthful words is urgent, words capable of unlocking new areas of liberty, in a world hostile to the truth, trivialized by planetary homogenization and asphyxiated by the frenetic and unilateral cloning of the calculating-capturing words of technoscience.




1- The term "monism" is open to misunderstandings that it is opportune to avoid, because it can make one think of a reductionistic system; for this reason, the expression "non-duality" is preferable, which seems all the more suitable to the goal. R. Guénon made the point with clarity: «One can say that monism is characterized by this, which, not admitting the absolute irreducibility and trying to go beyond the apparent opposition, believes it can succeed in reducing one of the two terms to the other; if, in particular, one deals with the opposition spirit-matter, on will have on the one hand a spiritualistic monism, which claims to reduce matter to spirit, and on the other a materialist monism, which claims to the contrary to reduce spirit to matter [...] it happens almost fatally [...] to deny the opposition [...] in reality the two opposite monist solutions are only the two sides of a double solution, in itself totally insufficient. It is a this point that an other solution should be brought in. [...] We will designate this doctrine by the appellation of non-dualism, or better still, as the doctrine of non-duality, wanting to translate the Sanskrit term advaita-vada in the most exact way possible» (Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines).back to text ^

2- Even for this T. Burckhard writes that «the Sufi method consists in the art of keeping the soul open to the influx of the Infinite» (Introduction to the Esoteric Doctrine of Islam).
We will add this complementary reflections of F. Schuon: «A civilization is whole and sane insofar as it rests on the invisible or implicit "perennal religion"; this signifies that it is it in as much as its expressions or its forms reveals the Formless.» (Light on Ancient Worlds).back to text ^

3- «Even though not admitting, as monism, any absolute irreducibility, non-dualism differs profoundly from it because it does not claim at all that one of the two terms is reducible to the other so simply; it will consider the one and the other simultaneously in the unity of a common principle, of a more universal character, in which they are both contained no longer as opposites, but as complementary [...] non-dualism is in this way the unique type of doctrine that is consistent with the universality of metaphysics.» (R. Guénon, Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines).back to text ^

4- The Infinite implies an integral pluralism, also because «every consciousness, even if relative, is always a participation of the absolute and supreme Consciousness» (R. Guénon, Man and his Becoming According to the Vedanta).back to text ^

5- The symbolism of the Breath, well represented in the Sophia Perennis, refers to contents just barely identified. Following Islamic esotericism, all beings as such, are in fact necessarily sustained by the Breath of Compassion (An-Nafas ar-rahmani), or are expressions of such an all-pervading breath. Not by chance in the Koran, Allah is also called «compassionate». The infinite-compassionate breath, as such, can not but receive in itself all beings without exception.
Not otherwise, in the Bradaranyaka Upanishad, it is said that «the vital Breath is similar to the ant, the fly, the elephant, the trimundio, to all the universe: for this is saman [...] It comprises "sa" and "ama" (namely all that which is feminine and masculine) [...] on the Breath in fact all the universe is sustained» (1.III,22-23).
And beyond that, always in reference to the Universal Breath: «You know that thread which binds together this world, the world beyond and all creatures? [...] Whoever knows this thread and this internal ruler, knows the Brahman, the world, the gods, the Veda, creatures; he who knows Atman, knows every thing [...] the breath is the line the ties together this world, that other world, and all creatures» (3.VII, 1-2).
Guénon commented thus: «This luminous ray that binds them to all the states is also symbolically represented as the breath in virtue of which they subsist, that, one will observe, is strictly conforming to the signified etymology of the terms designating the spirit (meaning the Latin spiritus or the Greek pneuma); and so, as we have explained in other occasions, it is properly the sutratma; that is also tantamount to saying that it is in reality Atman itself» (Spirit and Intellect).
The Hindu symbolism of sutratma epitomizes in an essential way the contents above, since «Atman as a thread (sutra), penetrates and binds all the worlds and at the same time it is also the breath that [...] sustains them and makes them exist» (Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science, LXI).
The same is said for the symbolism of the sarva-prana, that is of the total breath, that has the same function in respect to the multiplicity of beings and states of Existence. This synthesis of Shankara, speaking in connection with the sutratma: «it forms a tie between the various subtle bodies, and permeates them and passes among all of them as a thread on which is strung a row of gems. It is also know as Prana since in the form of vital breath it animates and sustains all of life.» (The Quintessence of the Vedanta).back to text ^

6- The suggestive image is from S. H. Nasr, Man and Nature.back to text ^

7- «.The vital needs and therefore the right to life remains the same everywhere, whether you're dealing with men or with insects. One of the most pernicious errors is to hold that the human collectivity on the one hand is its own wellbeing and on the other represents an absolute value and therefore is an end in itself.» (F. Schuon, Light on Ancient Worlds).back to text ^

8- «These two idols (science and progress) have served as much to mortify those minority of dissidents who, in spite of everything, existed in the last century [...] and who would want to avoid modern agitation, the madness of speed [...] ; so much -that is much more significant- to compel the majority of humanity, thanks to an alleged superiority and in spite of some egalitarian principle, and with the brutal force of arms, to be enslaved to the sprit of conquest and to western economic interests. What the dominating rationality in Europe and in America absolutely does not tolerate is that men prefer to work less (as is typical is some traditional civilizations and in general among ancient peoples) and to content themselves with less to live, according to a measure that derives from the intuition of the essential. Such intolerance derives directly from the centrality of the quantity and the denial of the non-sensible as imaginary, with the consequent lists of obsessive excitement and material production as sole value, to the extreme opposite of contemplation.» (G.Cognetti, The Lost Ark of Tradition and Criticism of the Modern in R. Guénon).back to text ^

9- All the traditional spiritual schools, not by chance, have as a common denominator the transcendent or at least the scaling back of that pest called ego, that which was expressed according to formulations sometimes rather diverse, and therefore converging to the importance of depth.
The brief treatise of Ibn Arabi, titled The Book of Extinction in Contemplation, is dedicated to the denial of egocentricity, and more generally of all that is contingent, since «the vision of Him does not really have a place if not across the coming of you yourself»
Drg drsya viveka
is a classic text of the Advaita Vedanta, attributed by most to Shankara. It deals with the Discrimination (viveka) between drg (the observer, the Self, ...) and drsya (the view, the observed, the not-Self, ...), between which it also forms the ego as a component of that which is not properly Self. So the ego also belongs to the which is merely "illusory-relative" in respect to the all-pervading absoluteness of the Infinite (Self, Atman, Brahman nirguna, ...). To appreciate one time more the truly universal course, consequently the non-egoism e non-anthropocentricity of the Vedanta, we can meditate on Sutra 21, in which the most universal qualities of the Infinite are attributed even to the non-human worlds, since «Pure Being (Sat), Pure Consciousness (Chit) and Bliss (Ananda) are common [...] to the ether, air, fire, water, earth [...] to the gods, to animals». A similar reflection can be exercised in speaking of Platonism, given the impersonal character of Nous. In addition, we will limit ourselves to note that Plotinus attributed the contemplative state to non-human beings (Enneads, III, B, I). We will also remember the according to Avicenna and most other medieval thinkers, the cognitive act never had a merely individual nature, but depended on the Active Intellect which had a supra-individual nature (v. Book of Directions, part II, group VII).back to text ^

10- «The transcendent intellect, to grasp directly the universal principles, should it be of a universal order, is not therefore an individual faculty. [...] Reason is a properly and specifically human faculty; but that which stands beyond reason is truly non-human and just for this makes possible metaphysical knowledge, that, it needs to be repeated again, is not at all a human knowledge. In other terms, in is not as man that man can arrive at such knowledge, but it is in this being, that is human in one of its states, and a the same time something else [...] if the individual constitutes a closed system, in the manner of the monads of Leibnitz, metaphysics would not be possible.» (R. Guénon, Oriental Metaphysics).
In connection with the hostility of modernity towards contemplation and intellectual intuition, it merits recalling this observation of J. Pieper: «The modern philosophical root of this disdain of contemplation in silence, and of this cult of work, lies in the denial of the intuitive activity of the human intellect, whose origin is Kantian» (The Truth of Things).back to text ^

11- Just for this Shankara, speaking of Brahman, judged that it is «of infinite nature, not subject to modifications, incomprehensible by means of reasoning [...] transcends every verbal definition» (The Quintessence of the Vedanta); and also: «there remains that sole and pure Reality, that is beyond mental categories.» (Aparokshanubhuti-Autorealizzazione).back to text ^

12- G. Reale wrote well: «metaphysics concerns the problematic of the absolute, but is not, and can not be, absolute knowledge of the absolute, since it always remains dynamically open. But it is even of this knowledge of this problematic of the interior that man can not make at least in the cognitive process in general.» (Ancient Wisdom. Therapy for the Ills of the Man of Today).back to text ^

13- Against the Popperian appraisal, there are reasons to believe that it is just the model of scientific rationality preponderant today that marks out a closed system.
«But in what does scientific rationality consist?» The Modern is presented first of all as the spirit of negation. The form of negation is the system, that in setting itself as a closed and totalizing formulation, denies the unlimited possibilities of formulations inhere in a traditional metaphysics and reduces the real to its hermeneutic schemas, worth saying it outlines an image of the world which appears necessarily given certain presuppositions [...] to then pass off that image as the true and objective mode in which things stand. [...] Kant and Comte embody for Guénon more than others this spirit of negation.» (G. Cognetti, The Lost Ark. Tradition and Criticism of the Modern in R. Guénon).
We have already remarked that the lack of Universality and of pluralism belongs to the closed system, which is so because it would try to nullify everything that is not included within its own predesignated boundaries. In this sense, the so-called modern critical philosophies, notwithstanding their pretenses, are located on the side of closed systems, insofar as the will to negate, from time to time, what is not reducible to mathematical reason (Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes,...), to the discursive intellect and pure reason (Kant), to dialectical reason (Hegel), the mere factual empiricism (positivism, neopositivism).
It deals with the common and what is truly disquieting is the denial of intellectual intuition and of contemplation, with the consequent atrophy of intelligence, through which Schuon can write: «With Voltaire, Rousseau, and Kant, the lack of bourgeois intelligence (or vaishya as the Hindus would say) becomes doctrine and inserts itself definitively into European thought, giving its origin [...] to scientism, industry and to quantitative culture. The mental hypertrophy of cultured man compensates now for penetrating intellectual absence; the sense of the absolute and of principle is submerged under a mediocre empiricism. [...] Some will reproach us perhaps for lacking care, but will would want to know where are the cares of the philosophers who cut off without shame entire millennia of wisdom.» (The Stations of Wisdom).back to text ^

14- Obviously, even Symbols entail some imperfections in respect to the contents which they allude to; that notwithstanding constitutes, as is said, the indispensable supports and potentials for approaching the truths that they express in some modes. Schuon has formulated with unsurpassable conciseness this double aspect of the symbol: «seen from the summit, the symbol is obscurity, but seen from below it is light» (The Stations of Wisdom).back to text ^


Paolo Scroccaro

translated from Italian by Chuck Salvo



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